National Park Service
Crater lake Phantom Ship
Design and Construction of Circuit Roads
Construction of Rim Drive
Other Designed Features along Rim Drive
Postwar Changes
Design and Construction of Approach Roads
Construction and Use of Other Roads

History of Rim Drive
Sinnott Memorial

Parapet of the Sinnott Memorial.

Other Designed Features along Rim Drive

A series of contracts let for grading, surfacing, and paving were the most visible and costly parts of road construction, but the NPS also took the lead in designing and building trails, structures, and signs on Rim Drive. The latter group did not require contracts or the need for BPR oversight and could be funded from park accounts for projects (generally through hiring temporary employees from these accounts, a method called "day labor") or through allotments from work relief programs like the CCC. In each case, these designed features were intended to meld with the contracted items as a part of the circulation system called Rim Drive.


With only a few notable exceptions, most of the foot trails built during the 1930s were intended to provide park visitors with distinctly different views of Crater Lake from points not reached by road. Trails allowed relatively easy access to a couple of observation stations located along the western portion of Rim Drive, while also giving visitors the opportunity to reach viewpoints such as Mount Scott and Sentinel Point on the opposite side of the lake. Like roads, they were built to specified standards that required (at least in several instances) reconstructing earlier work on prominent features like Garfield Peak or the Watchman. Much like his BPR colleagues, the NPS resident engineer took the lead in locating trails, though final approval of the route along with measures to protect vegetation came through the lead landscape architect on site.

NPS resident engineer William E. Robertson located a new trail linking the western end of Rim Village with Discovery Point during the summer of 1932. This occurred once Merriam and Wallace W. Atwood selected a site for an observation station, one serving as the end of the footpath from Rim Village and a viewpoint that required only a short walk from the nearby parking area on Rim Drive. The Discovery Point Trail thus consisted of two segments, with the longest having easy grades lasting for nearly a mile along the rim before it met the large parking area at Station 55. From there the trail made a short climb to the observation station at Discovery Point. Crews built the trail in roughly three weeks in 1932, while Robertson noted that he consulted Sager both before and during construction.

Trail following the old Rim Road below Hillman Peak.

Work on reconstructing the trail to the top of Watchman also took place in 1932, starting from a point on the old Rim Road that was situated above the new location for Rim Drive. This path utilized portions of a rough trail made the previous summer to transport materials for constructing the lookout and trailside museum, but with better curvature and the addition of features like hand-placed retaining walls and stone slabs for use as benches. The completed trail started at the Watchman Overlook on Rim Drive and incorporated a piece of the old Rim Road to a point where the path built by day labor brought park staff and visitors to the summit. As with other popular trails where dust was perceived as a problem, crews oiled the finished surface.

A trail planned for connecting the parking area at the Diamond Lake Junction with the viewpoint selected by Merriam as the fourth observation station along Rim Drive did not materialize. This probably stemmed from a decision made in 1934 to transfer funds earmarked for development of three observation stations to instead help finance repairs at the Sinnott Memorial. Without money to build masonry guardrail and install a viewfinder at the observation station, there seemed to be little need for a short trail from the junction to what became known as Merriam Point, or a longer path to Llao Rock.

None of the remaining observation stations beyond the Diamond Lake Junction featured trails. CCC enrollees improved a path linking Sentinel Rock with the parking overlook at substation 7-B in 1940, once the steps forming a trailhead were completed through the surfacing contract. The CCC also extended a rough "service road" part way up Mount Scott by building a horse trail that reached the summit, which provided a better way of packing supplies to a lookout located more than 2 miles away from Rim Drive. Visitor use as a foot trail came as a secondary consideration, at least initially, so the connection between trailhead and parking area remained weak.

Building foot trails became even less of a priority once Rim Drive proceeded past Kerr Notch toward Park Headquarters. Nothing more than social trails resulted at Sun Notch, for example, despite of the careful study urged by an art professor commissioned by Merriam to visit the park in 1932. In a similar vein, Lange suggested extending a trail begun by the CCC near Vidae Falls in 1934 to Garfield Peak, or making a loop with an overlook so that visitors could view the falls from above. Neither idea came to fruition, though CCC enrollees built 1 new mile of trail to the top of Crater Peak in 1933. Visitors traveling by foot or horseback on a fire road that commenced where Rim Drive ran near Tututni Pass could thus reach the summit of the prominent cinder cone that can be seen from various viewpoints around the park. The trail through the Castle Crest Wildflower Garden near Park Headquarters originated in 1929, though not in reference to any future location of Rim Drive. A new parking area intended to serve as the trailhead, however, came about as part of the grading contract for 7-E2 in 1938. This development corresponded with an effort led by the permanent park naturalist to reconstruct the trail that summer.


The NPS actively encouraged visitors to see the Sinnott Memorial "as soon as possible" upon arriving in the park because it helped them locate places of interest. Although situated in Rim Village, "Observation Station No. 1" functioned as the main orientation point prior to participating in a naturalist-led Rim Caravan or taking a self-guided excursion on Rim Drive. In this respect, the official park brochure for 1938 described the parapet as featuring high-powered field glasses

" on the important features, helping the visitor to understand the geological history of the lake and to appreciate the relationship between the scenic and scientific. Displays in the exhibit room, maintained in connection with the observation station, further aid the visitor to appreciate the beauties of the park and to interpret the moods of Crater Lake."

Built in 1930, the Sinnott Memorial's design borrowed heavily from the slightly larger Yavapai Station erected on the south rim of the Grand Canyon in 1927. Merriam was the main force behind both buildings and saw to it that each incorporated an open porch or parapet along with an enclosed display room or museum. Sager drew the plans for the Sinnott Memorial, but Merriam expressed the underlying purpose of the building as

" window through which it is planned to show the visitor things of major interest at the Lake. The active use of the structure is strictly that of looking out and the museum aspect should be reduced to a minimum, using only such materials as are helpful in development of the window idea."

trail to Sinnott Memorial
Victor Rock Trail to the Sinnott Memorial.

Although operational with the installation of parapet exhibits in 1931, Merriam and park officials did not consider the Sinnott Memorial completed until August 9, 1938. That morning an exhibition aimed at helping visitors appreciate the aesthetic values of Crater Lake opened in its museum room. The featured photographs, paintings, and lighted transparencies were intended to induce visitors to see various aspects of the beautiful landscape for themselves. Merriam and his associates hoped that a "new phase" of educational work at Crater Lake might thus begin, one where the interpretation of scenic and scientific values at the Sinnott Memorial might inspire visitors as they explored the park on their own.

Apparent success with reaching visitors at the Yavapai Station prompted NPS Chief Naturalist Ansel Hall to suggest in early 1930 that a fire lookout planned for the Watchman be enlarged to accommodate an "educational lookout station or branch museum" on the lower floor. Albright and Merriam received copies of Hall's letter to Solinsky, and by March landscape architect Charles E. Peterson had prepared a sketch for the building that included an elevated lookout with a "trailside museum" adjoining it but at ground level next to a "terrace" on the lakeside. After making a more definite study of the building's location, Sager sent Hall a revised sketch by Lange in June 1931 incorporating all three elements. An allotment of $5,000 and the final drawings prepared by Lange allowed laborers to complete most of the building that summer. Work at the site continued in 1932, at which time workmen built a masonry parapet wall around the point in front of the building along with a bituminous walk. Hall installed field glasses for the use of visitors to reinforce dual purpose of the structure.

Assistant Superintendent and Chief Park Naturalist Donald Libbey described plans for exhibits and the mounting of range finders at each corner of the parapet prior to official opening of the Watchman Observation Station in 1933, but his transfer that year put installation of those interpretive devices on indefinite hold. The NPS, however, continued to promote the building as an observation station throughout the 1930s by offering a shortened version of the full Rim Caravan that ran from Rim Village to the Watchman Overlook and culminated with a hike to the lookout. The trip was so popular that it became a daily feature of the naturalist program, relegating the full Rim Caravan to the status of a special offering held just once a week.

Visitors using the north entrance eventually obtained their first view of Crater Lake at the Diamond Lake Junction. The ranger station located there became known as the "North House" to employees upon its construction in 1930. The initial design called for exterior walls made of logs, but Sager drew the final plans to specify the use of stone masonry in line with the precedent established at Rim Village. The North House contained public restrooms, made possible by piping water from a spring located near the Devil's Backbone, with an office situated between them. In being slightly recessed into a gentle slope back from the rim, the structure provided an attractive seasonal residence that could also double as a visitor facility. Nevertheless, the park's master plan started calling for its removal in 1939, since improvement of the North Entrance Road (Route 8) in the interim allowed for fee booth and associated quarters to be located next to the park boundary.

Funds for building a "checking kiosk" near the North House became available in the fall of 1933, but work did not begin until the following summer. Robertson commented that frequent storms led to periodic delays during the project, which was finally completed over the summer of 1936. Until that time rangers collecting park entrance fees at the road junction enjoyed no protection from the elements because the North House had been located some 80' removed from Rim Drive. Collecting fees remained difficult, however, because the volume of traffic that resulted from opening the Willamette Highway in 1940 led to longer lines and congestion at the road junction. As a result, the NPS placed a portable station near the actual north entrance in July 1941 that Superintendent Leavitt described as greatly improving fee collection. Despite the advantages of being on the rim to provide visitor information, moving the checking operation spelled a quick end to the kiosk's effective life.

A development seen as complementary to the Diamond Lake Junction was briefly considered for Kerr Notch near the end of 1936, though not referenced in the site plan by Lange for a parking overlook. Envisioned for the junction of Rim Drive and the East Entrance Road, a ranger station similar in size and appearance to the North House would take the place of a log structure built in 1917 near the park boundary some 7 miles distant. Crews razed the latter structure in 1938, but the new ranger station at Kerr Notch did not materialize even though the building could have used the same water system that allowed use of a drinking fountain at the parking overlook.


Customized signage for Rim Drive evolved from a CCC project begun in 1936 at Park Headquarters that aimed to replace various types of metal signs posted throughout the park. Enrollees produced hand-carved wood signs of varying sizes with raised letters painted chrome orange (for visibility at night) against a dark brown background, based on Lange's drawings of entrance, directional, and building signs. Their production and placement greatly accelerated over the summer of 1938 after establishing an outdoor workshop at the CCC camp near Annie Spring. Lange reported that 200 signs had been completed by November, including some that identified parking areas and points of interest on Rim Drive. Through photographs in his season-ending report, he attempted to show how this type of sign possessed good visibility, if properly placed, for conveying mileage and direction on Rim Drive. These examples included signs mounted in a triangular configuration at road junctions and others slotted into bollards.

entrance sign
East Entrance motif.

CCC enrollees produced more signs at Camp Oregon Caves over the following winter and began installing them upon returning to Crater Lake for the 1939 season. They reestablished a workshop at the park that summer for a crew of fifteen men to carve, assemble, and then place eighty signs. Lange provided "field sketch details" as drawings for the crew to follow as he had the previous year, but the signs completed that year varied somewhat more in size and shape because of emphasis on the individualization of signs for points of interest located along Rim Drive. Although he originally expected to complete the project by October, the shift away from standardization may have accounted for why the crew did not finish installation of the remaining signs until 1940.

The sign project's apparent success stood in sharp contrast to the lack of orientation markers or literature describing each of the observation stations, ideas once advanced by Merriam and embraced to some degree by the naturalists. At one point Assistant Superintendent and Chief Park Naturalist Donald Libbey had plans drawn to install markers similar to one on top of Pilot Butte in Bend, but he transferred before the NPS could fund the project. Lange's recommendation in 1935 for a "binocular instrument" at each of the observation stations quickly dropped off the list of prospective projects, as did the suggestion from Merriam about placing inconspicuous holders for interpretive literature targeted specifically at the stations and substations. The latter probably resulted when no one came forward to implement the recommendation by Merriam that experts produce literature for each of these stations, even after Howel Williams began his classic study of the park's geology in 1936 and actively continued his fieldwork through 1939.

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